In A Crappy Year, These Sports Moments Brought Us Joy

Read this for your own emotional well-being.

Dear 2016, kindly slink off into the abyss and never show your face again. 

This year, the U.S. saw its worst mass shooting in history. A zoo gorilla got executed. David Bowie and Prince died. Donald Trump got elected. The list is painfully long.

Yet amid the persistent doom and gloom, we had sports to thank for some truly joyful moments.

Peyton Manning Saddled Up For One More Rodeo And Won A Ring

America’s favorite dad quarterback ended his career by leading the Denver Broncos to a Super Bowl win in February. 

Fans cheer as Peyton Manning is introduced onstage during the Denver Broncos Super Bowl 50 victory rally in Civic Center Park
Fans cheer as Peyton Manning is introduced onstage during the Denver Broncos Super Bowl 50 victory rally in Civic Center Park, Feb. 9, 2016, in Denver.

All season, the Broncos wrecked their opponents thanks to Manning’s strong leadership and a vicious defense led by Super Bowl MVP Von Miller. The Broncos ultimately beat the Carolina Panthers 24-10, giving Manning a pretty nice send-off. 

Kobe Bryant Retired From The NBA, But Not Before Sinking 60 Points

Kobe Bryant knows how to put on a show. In April, for his final NBA game, the legendary player took to the court to do one thing: demolish. The L.A. Lakers beat the Utah Jazz 101-96, a feat that would not have been possible without Kobe scoring 60 points. It’s the most points ever scored by an NBA player in his final game.

Even former teammate Shaquille O’Neal was stupefied.

LeBron James Finally Won The City Of Cleveland Its Championship 

In a nail-biting final game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and California’s Golden State Warriors, LeBron James helped lead his team to its first championship in franchise history.

In their seventh game in the championship series, both teams were poised to fight. In fact, the scores were so close throughout the game that it wasn’t until Kyle Irving made a 3-pointer with 53 seconds left that the Cavaliers began to grab a noticeable lead, one that would eventually result in a 93-89 victory. James scored 27 of those points, and gave a strong showing on defense.

After the game, an emotional James dedicated the win to the city of Cleveland. 

Golfers At Ryder Cup Got Trolled In The Best Way Possible

We all know that guy: the one who watches professional athletes flub and says, “I could totally do that!”

Sometimes, that guy is right.

During a practice round at the Ryder Cup in September, Rory Mcllroy and Andy Sullivan just couldn’t quite sink a putt. That’s when a fan in the crowd shouted out that he could definitely make the shot. Golfer Justin Rose bet the heckler ― David Johnson from North Dakota ― $100 that he couldn’t. Guess what happened next? 

“I closed my eyes, swallowed my puke and hit the putt,” Johnson later said. “It happened to go in.” 

Serena Williams Reminded A Reporter Of Her Greatness

What do you call one of the greatest athletes of all time? Just that.

When Serena Williams dismantled her competition in the Wimbledon semifinal in July, reporters were clamoring to talk to her.

Serena Williams celebrates her victory over Angelique Kerber, July 9, 2016.
Serena Williams celebrates her victory over Angelique Kerber, July 9, 2016.

“There will be talk about you going down as one of the greatest female athletes of all time,” one reporter said. “What do you think when you hear someone talk like that?”

Without missing a beat, Williams gave the perfect response.

“I prefer the word ‘one of the greatest athletes of all time,’” she said. 

We prefer that too. 

The Cubs Won The World Series

Welp, there’s a sentence we never thought we’d write.

After 108 years, the Chicago Cubs finally got a World Series championship, beating the Cleveland Indians 8-7 during Game 7. The curse was officially broken. Even more special were all the emotional grandmas and grandpas who finally got to see the impossible happen. 

After the game, Chicago citizens seemed fairly pleased, if the below video is any indication. 

Miami Marlins Honored One Of Their Fallen, And We All Cried

Sometimes moments happen in life that simply couldn’t be more perfect if they were scripted. That was the case during the first game the Miami Marlins played after the death of star pitcher Jose Fernandez.

It was a death that had come suddenly, and tore a hole through the hearts of players and fans alike. Fernandez, just 24 years old, died with two others in a boating accident in September. 

During the Marlins’ following game, second baseman Dee Gordon stepped up to the plate wearing a Fernandez jersey and hit a solo home run during the very first inning. As he rounded the bases, Gordon began to cry. His teammates began to cry. We all began to cry.  

“Unbelievable,” an announcer said after Gordon’s hit. “Just unbelievable ― his eyes wet with emotion as he rounded the bases, his first home run of the season.” 

The Olympics Restored Our Faith In Humanity

While the world around us slowly burned, the Olympics allowed a moment of respite from the chaos.   

Michael Phelps, American merman, broke a more-than-2,000-year record for individual Olympic titles. And there was Simone Biles, the 19-year-old gymnastics superstar who crushed the women’s individual all-around to take home a gold medal. Biles finished out the year by becoming the most decorated American gymnast of all time.

Then there were the moments that truly encapsulated the Olympic spirit. For instance, 2016 saw the very first team of refugee athletes. The 10-person team included athletes from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria and Ethiopia. 

“These are athletes who have trained their whole lives to compete in the Olympics and they’d like nothing more than to compete under their own flags,” Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in a video message. “But unfortunately, instead of being able to do that, they have been displaced from their homes.”

President Barack Obama also cheered on the team.

But perhaps nothing embodied the Olympic spirit more than the selflessness of two runners who collided during Round 1 of the women’s 5,000-meter race. 

After U.S. athlete Abbey D’Agnostino and New Zealand athlete Nikki Hamblin fell to the ground during the race, they encouraged one another to finish together.

“Get up, get up! We have to finish!” D’Agostino told her competitor, according to ESPN. “This is the Olympic Games. We have to finish this.”

Despite an injured knee, D’Agostino was able to finish in last place with the help of Hamblin. The two hugged at the finish line.

Abbey D'Agostino of the United States, right, hugs Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand, left, after the second heat of the women's 5
Abbey D'Agostino of the United States, right, hugs Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand, left, after the second heat of the women's 5000m during the 2016 Olympic Games, Aug. 16, 2016.

If that’s not beautiful enough, both runners were honored with the Fair Play Award, a sportsmanship medal that’s only been given to 17 other Olympic athletes in history.

“Winning this award is overwhelming,” Hamblin said at the ceremony. “I... truly believe that you can be both a competitor and kind and responsive at the same time.”

Maybe everything will be OK after all.